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Main Point: We all need help to keep praying as we ought.
In life, some things are easy to do, some things are hard to do, and other things cannot be done on your own. I can tie my shoes on my own. I’ve got that. But while remodeling our house I have run into numerous things I struggle to do alone and other things simply I cannot do by myself. I cannot hang the first course of 12’ hardie board siding. I can’t do that by myself. I need help. Years ago I watched my dad try and try and try and eventually quit smoking. He couldn’t do it alone. Big projects and kicking an addiction are all hard to do without help. We get that. But did you realize we all need help to pray?
You are not supposed to pray on your own and prayer is never presented in the bible as something which comes easily. A powerful, fruitful prayer life is hard won. We need help. What I’m saying is it encourages me to see Jesus encouraging his disciples to pray. Jesus knew his disciples needed help praying. They needed more than just instructions concerning how to pray. They needed encouragement to keep praying. Their life was hard and they often suffered in unfair or even unjust ways. Where is God in that? Why keep praying if God isn’t going to do what is right?
You and I as Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ. We suffer, our brothers and sisters suffer, in unjust conditions. As disciples we also need help to pray. Today, from Luke 18, we are going to receive encouragement for prayer. Our parable for today, the parable of the persistent widow, is one of the compare and contrast parables. Jesus wants us to look at the unrighteous judge and know if that guy delivers justice how much more will God himself deliver justice.
Let’s read the parable- Luke 18:1-8
I. The bad guy delivers
We need to follow Jesus’ logic in this parable. We start with the unrighteous judge
The unrighteous judge
As a judge it is his responsibility to decide between cases and uphold what is right. From the sound of the parable he is what we call a civil court judge. He doesn’t hear criminal cases. He hears disputes. The problem is the only thing he cares about is himself.
He has no fear of God. This means the judge has no higher standard than himself. He is his own guide. No one can appeal to justice or right and wrong or moral law because this judge sees no basis for moral law. To make matters worse this judge doesn’t care about the people under his authority. He doesn’t care if you are hurt or taken advantage of by another. The weak matter nothing to him and the strong matter nothing to him.
Jesus is emphasizing the fact that the citizens could not appeal to justice with this judge and the citizens could not appeal to love with this judge. Love and justice have become meaningless. So if someone wrongs you, you could go to the judge about it but there was no telling what the judge might do or if he will do anything at all. The people of this city are on their own being overseen by a useless even harmful judge.
Connect this judge with God. Many of our friends and family view God this way. God doesn’t give a rip. Maybe you view God this way. You stopped praying or have never prayed because God isn’t there or doesn’t care. If that’s you, you are safe here. We want to help you and encourage you and walk slowly with you as you figure God out.
That’s the unrighteous judge- unpredictable at best and harmful at worst. So don’t expect anything good from him. Now here comes our next character the persistent widow.
The persistent widow
In this parable we have a powerful person- the judge- and a powerless person- the widow. As a widow she would have little to no rights or relationships for protection. She would struggle to make it by and when wronged there would be none to defend her. Well, the judge should defend her and protect her but as we have seen this judge isn’t that type.
In verse 3 we see she has an adversary. Someone has brought an accusation against her. In Luke 20:47 we see Jesus calling out the scribes for devouring widows’ houses. So it’s not hard to imagine a situation where someone in the city with power and influence is trying to take advantage of the weak and helpless position of this widow. It is possible someone is trying to take her property by some legal maneuver.
What does she do? She keeps going to the judge saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” She is being wronged and wants the judge to do his job and protect her.
Let’s pause for a moment here. There are many encouraging application points for this parable but let’s not move too quickly past the immediate situation. Jesus is speaking into a situation where his disciples are being wronged. So don’t think first about praying for a new car. Think first about your car being confiscated because you are a Christian. How should you respond? How should you pray? Think about your business being shut down because you are a Christian. How should you respond? How should you pray? Think about your house being confiscated because you are a Christian. How should you respond? How should you pray? Jesus wants us to pray and not lose heart when justice is thwarted. Now let’s get back to the parable.
How does the judge initially respond to her repeatedly coming and asking for justice? Verse 4, for a while he refused her. Not going to do it. Not going to listen. I don’t care. But then he thinks to himself. It’s like the prodigal son coming to his senses in the pig pin. This is not comfortable for me. I should do something about it. This judge is like the prodigal son. He is also like the unrighteous steward in chapter 16 who comes up with a plan to make his friends receive him into their houses after he’s been fired. Jesus tells parables about people thinking. You and I should try to do a little more thinking about our current situation.
So the unrighteous judge says to himself, verse 4, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”
He’s clear the reason he is giving her justice is so that she will leave him alone. He doesn’t care about what is right and he doesn’t care about her. He only wants to get her off his back. So because she was annoying she finally received what she wanted. The unrighteous judge gave her justice. He delivered. Now let’s think about God.
II. God will deliver
Look at verse 6, “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” Here is our first encouragement to pray.
Pray because God is just and loving
These are two attributes of God which are absolutely necessary for prayer. If you lose either of these you will derail prayer. When wronged we need to know God has our backs. When the wrong continues unchallenged we need to know with absolute surety God will deliver justice.
Look at verse 7, God will give justice to his elect. Verse 8, he will give justice to them speedily.
Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [See Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrews 10:30; Psalm 94:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:6]. The storyline of Scripture reveals many things about God but one of the major truths from all of Scripture is God can be trusted to punish evil. God will uphold justice.
Now this truth can lead us to think God is concerned for the right thing but maybe he is not concerned for people. Or God is going to give justice to those people but he can’t be trusted to give justice to me. We need to know God is just AND loving towards each of us.
Look back at Luke 18:7, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” Sometimes in Scripture, like in Romans 9, a reference to election is a reference to God’s freewill choice of a particular person to be saved. Other times, like here in Luke 18, a reference to election is a reference to God’s loving relationship with a certain person or people. Colossians 2:12 gives instructions to God’s chosen ones; chosen ones are holy and loved. Think of the shepherd loving his lost sheep. Think of the woman searching for her treasured coin. Think of the father welcoming home his beloved son. Christians, the elect, God loves you.
Romans 8:31 asks, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Some of us struggle to pray because we struggle to believe God loves us. In these times do not look to your circumstances for proof of God’s love. Your circumstances are constantly changing. Instead look to the atoning work of Christ for you. Look at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your salvation. There you will see how much God loves you. Pray because God is just and loving and
Don’t lose heart because God will give you justice
Pray because God is better than the unrighteous judge. If that scum bag gave the widow justice won’t the faithful God give his people justice? He certainly will. Remember, Jesus is not only concerned that you keep on praying, Jesus is concerned that we do not lose heart. Jesus is concerned about you and me becoming discouraged. Now why might Jesus’ disciples become discouraged and give up on prayer?
We must read Scripture in context. Luke 18 comes right after Luke 17 for a reason. Jesus had just been teaching the Pharisees and his disciples about the end of history. I’ll summarize this way, when this age comes to an end things are going to get rough. There will be suffering and rejection. God’s people will be mocked and ignored as in the day of Noah. It’s going to be like the days of Sodom when God’s people are abused by their neighbors. It’s going to be hard. Life is going to be harder than we know it now.
Don’t be surprised by difficulty. Don’t be surprised by suffering. It’s going to be rough. You will be wronged. You will be taken advantage of without any earthly course for justice. The judges aren’t going to care about God and the judges aren’t going to care about you. Will you turn your back on God?
Listen to what Jesus asks in verse 8, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Will you fall away because you don’t get your way?
Luke 17 is so important for understanding Luke 18 because Jesus is reminding us that we will receive justice. God will do the right thing and we need to know when he will right every wrong. Justice will be finally served at the return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes back God will give justice to his elect. And Jesus is coming soon. God will not delay long over his own. Jesus will come speedily and God will give justice to them.
I think of those martyred during the Tribulation. Turn with me to Revelation 6:9-11.
When will God judge? When will God avenge their blood? He will judge and avenge when Jesus returns. Church, God is surely working. He cares for us. But God is not working on our timetables. God is working on his own time table.
God is surely working. Jesus is coming. Therefore, do not lose heart. God will give you justice. I don’t know your situation and I don’t know the ways you are being wronged but I know justice is coming. Don’t give up. Don’t harden your heart toward God. Trust that he is just and trust that he is loving regardless of how your prayers are being answered right now.
III. Let’s apply this parable
Pray and don’t lose heart
Jesus wants to encourage you to pray. I hope you see and feel the benefit of a just and loving God. I hope you want to keep praying because of what you have seen in the word today. It may be you need encouragement to keep paying while suffering in an unjust situation. It may also be you need encouragement to keep praying for your Christian brothers and sisters as they suffer in an unjust situation. We are to remember them as if in prison with them (Heb 13:3).
I think of our sister Asia Bibi as she suffers in Pakistan waiting trial. She is certainly tempted to lose heart and stop praying. We need to be there for her.
As you pray remember
The fact that we need help praying means we need to gather often with the church.
This church exists to help others treasure Christ. In every Sunday School class, midweek meeting, worship gathering, and one on one get together we want to give one another more reasons to pray, keep praying, and not lose heart.
The fact that we need help praying means we must constantly preach, teach, sing, and speak about the trustworthiness of God.
Seeing the glorious and trustworthy God in the word and trusted in real life encourages us to pray. We must be a people who are focusing on the God revealed through Jesus in the Word.
The fact that we need help praying helps us understand the role of celebrating answered prayer.
Hearing your answered prayer encourages me to pray. Hearing my answered prayer encourages you to pray. We must be a people who celebrate what God is doing in and through one another.
The fact that we need help praying means we need to be praying together.
When we hear one another begging and pleading with God it encourages us to join with one another in trusting prayer. What I mean is sharing a prayer request is good but sitting with someone as they pour out their heart to God in pleading prayer over that request is quite another thing. To do this you need to come early and stay late so you can pray with others. To do this you need to invite people into your home to pray. It’s going to be awkward asking for help; it always is because we are prideful people. But the truth is we all need help praying and God has given you this church and given you to this church to help people pray.
So, I have declared to you the trustworthiness of God to encourage you to pray. I hope you have been helped and want to pray.
Now, you need the opportunity to pray. Pray where you are, come and knell before God, or go to a quiet place. You may want to ask another person to pray with you. Go and do that. You may be led to go and pray for someone. Go and do that. Trusting God let’s do whatever the Spirit is leading us to do.